‘Public Policy & Governance Beyond Borders’ will be the guiding theme of the international conference of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM), to be held in Brussels on 13-14 July 2017. In the run-up to the event, I’ll be posing questions to a number of minority scholarship winners. Our first post looks at the work, hopes and dreams of Tieza Mica Santos, a Master’s student at the Central European University in Hungary.
Can you tell us why you submitted a paper for this conference?
I heard about the 2017 APPAM Conference through my university network. At the time, I had just finalised a paper on environmental policy in the Water-Food-Energy Nexus of the Mekong Region, which became the foundation of my current thesis. When I saw the conference themes, I thought it would be a good venue to present my work and explore options for future research collaboration with other academics and practitioners. The Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) has a strong network of academics and practitioners and I hope that by participating in this year’s conference, I will be able to meet other researchers, share my experiences and learn from theirs.
You’ll present your paper ‘From Silo to Nexus: Deconstructing Traditional Policy Regimes through Systems Thinking for Integrated Environmental Security’ during a session on environmental and energy policy. Can you briefly describe what your paper is about?
The paper focuses on the ongoing issues in the Mekong region in Southeast Asia, which covers six countries and which is facing multiple environmental risks and simultaneous challenges in water, energy and food security. States’ traditional security challenges used to relate to political and military matters, but current environmental challenges such as climate change demonstrate a new form of threat to national security. Approaches to environmental governance and policymaking however, still tend to consider issues of state sovereignty and are deeply embedded in traditions of silo-thinking. There is a tendency to overlook the strong interconnectedness and interrelatedness of shared resources, particularly in transboundary resources.
The fact that countries in the Mekong region are vulnerable to climate change shows how thinking in terms of Systems Dynamics – how water, energy, and food systems are interconnected – can resolve new forms of security challenges. It covers the pressing issues of security in the region regarding water access, energy development, and the provision of food for a growing population in the Mekong. I also look into the trade-offs in addressing these security challenges, and how systems thinking can result in a ‘win-win’ scenario for policy and governance and an ‘optimum gain’ for all stakeholders involved.
The APPAM organisation is dedicated to improving public policy and management by fostering excellence in research, analysis, and education. With this in mind, can you share how your research could lead to improvements in policymaking? Why is your research policy relevant?
As a practitioner with a background in academia, it has long been one of my goals to share my research at an international conference. Traditional approaches to policymaking were created for the purpose of national security. But, in our interconnected world, environmental governance and policy must now respect our dynamic global system. In particular, current environmental problems such as transboundary resource security should be approached via an integration of various disciplines — with a view to finding comprehensive policy solutions. This is the main focus of my research and what I have been advocating in terms of study and practice.
As demonstrated through my current study, I believe that research should shift focus to this direction and pursue the framing of problems with the goal of creating a nexus between theory and practice, and so advocate more interdisciplinarity. There is now an emerging set of literature that tries to incorporate practical approaches and applications as part of research goals. At the same time, reports and policy papers that deal with environmental challenges and other related security issues should be grounded in science. However, there is still a lot of work to be done – to mainstream the process of creating this nexus, which I hope my current study will be able to demonstrate.
The conference aims to attract researchers, policymakers and practitioners, debating the most relevant policy issues from their different perspectives. What do you hope to benefit from during your conference participation specifically, and how do you think your APPAM membership can help you in your career?
I hope to establish connections with the APPAM network, gain a deeper understanding on the ongoing challenges in the fields of policy development and research, and environment, among others. Specifically, I hope to learn about other trends and methodologies in policy research that are beyond my area of expertise and to find connections for possible partnerships. I also hope to meet policy practitioners, to explore future projects that can show how practice can inform knowledge-building.
The opinions expressed here are the author’s own; they do not necessarily reflect the views of UNU.